Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks officials said today that a widely reported “new elk tag” for archers in the eastern half of Montana is causing confusion among hunters.
Several reports following the FWP Commission meeting last week suggested that FWP would offer a new “900-15” elk archery permit that would be good for use in up to 21 limited entry hunting districts.
For the upcoming 2012 hunting season, the commission did group a total of 21 hunting districts into a bundle that would allow archers to apply for a particular hunting district and if successful then be allowed to hunt for bull elk in any district in the bundle. Because the application process for buck deer and bull elk permits is underway, the FWP Commission determined that it would be best not to offer the choice of 900-15 elk archery permits until the 2013 season.
The bundled hunting districts include: 401, 403, 411, 412, 426, 447, 450, 500, 502, a portion of 510, 511, a portion of 520, 530, 570, 575, a portion of 580, 590, a portion of 701, 702, 704, and 705. A total of 3,700 permits will be issued, about 400 more than last season.
With the new March 15 deadline to apply for 2012 deer and elk hunting permits, a new streamlined eight-page application packet—that contains all the information residents need to apply— is now available at all license providers, FWP offices and online at fwp.mt.gov. 
The online version of the application package contains all of the recent updates and changes. The new deadline was approved by the FWP commission in response to hunters’ requests for more time to plan their fall deer and elk hunts, according to FWP spokesman Ron Aasheim in Helena.
The new packets offers a fast and convenient way to identify hunting districts where buck deer and bull elk permits are available, Aasheim said.
The FWP Commission also approved a quota of up to 1,000 cow elk licenses valid on private land—excluding those private lands enrolled in FWP’s Block Management Program—in the bundled districts listed above. These antlerless Elk-B licenses must be applied for by June 1 and will be valid during the rifle and archery seasons. Officials said the licenses are aimed at the harvest of antlerless elk in districts where elk numbers exceed population objectives. Applications for these antlerless Elk-B licenses will be available in April.
The commission also established an annual review process for bull elk permit quotas in the 21 bundled districts. If the antlerless harvest is sufficient to reduce elk numbers, bull elk permit quotas will likely be similar to those offered this year. If too few antlerless elk are taken in a hunting district, that hunting district may be removed from the bundle and managed to reduce the population by offering fewer bull permits and more antlerless Elk-B licenses.